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Tesla Builds First Electric-Car Roadster

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Tesla Motors says its new roadster is in production, and that customers will begin to get their cars soon.

The electric-car maker has had some rough patches since we last spoke with them in October, when we took a first ride in the Tesla Roadster. Problems with the vehicle's transmission led to delays, and a slow start-up to production has been the result.

The Tesla is built on the same chassis as the Lotus Elise, but swaps out the Elise's gas engine for an array of 6800 lithium-ion batteries.

The new roadster will be badged a 2008 model, and will be priced from $98,950, Tesla says. Automotive News also reports that the company has more than 900 reservations for the cars, and expects to get about 600 of them to customers this year. The production plan for next year is 400 cars.

Tesla also has plans for five-passenger sedan for the 2010 model year, and says it will build up to 10,000 sedans a year in a new facility in Albuquerque, N.M.

For all its promises, we're still not sure if Tesla is the real thing. Will shoppers really adapt to a $100,000 electric car the size of an Elise? And is there enough venture-capital money out there to fund an even bigger Tesla Motors sedan? Tell us if you think electric cars will sink or swim, and if Tesla's the captain of the ship, either way.
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